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Charles Brown, Emperor of Locus

Monday July 13th, cool and cloudy, one lone swift on the wing.

Just got the news, via SFRA, that Charles Brown is dead. I liked him very much, he was a friend of mine from the first time we met. I'm glad he went easy (I mean, as far as the reports I've seen), that's a gift from the gods. He'll be missed.


Friday 10th July, clear blue sky, cooler. No swifts.

Finally watched Tony Palmer's Shostakovich biopic last night. I don't know why, considering the director, but I'd been expecting a sombre bio/historical drama. It's more of a Ken Russell puppet show, and if it hadn't been made for Channel 4, I'd have wondered what audience Palmer was thinking of, for a fairly demanding topic. I thought it was pretty good, though. The combination of stark black&white & surreal carnival effects works very well with the man's music and with the horror around him. Interesting range of reviews here and elsewhere! I must concur: if you're a big fan of Joe Stalin you should beware of this movie. It will only upset you.

I love red kites, always look forward to seeing them over the M40. I didn't know they did interior design, how nice.

Madness, mayhem, anorexia

Monday 6th July, cool grey and showery.

Madness and misery in my bedside reading. I've just reached the home straight of Proust again, Time Regained, and Marcel's jaded view on life is getting me down. Every friend betrays him, everyone turns out to be venal, treacherous, secretly homosexual or all three. The "secretly homosexual" issue has to be a big part of the problem, but Marcel's thesis that: when homosexuality is outlawed, only nasty or feeble-minded perverts persist, all the normal people who happen to be gay/lesbian just make do with straight sex is getting me down too. . . And then it's back to Gravity's Rainbow, paranoia goes mad in wartime Europe; more grim loony tunes. And if I decide to skip GR, I revert to The Tale Of Genji, despairing anorexic women with limbs like wet spaghetti, creeping around in gloom, getting institutionally raped. I've thought of replacing Gravity's Rainbow with Memoires De L'Outre Tombe, but Francois Rene de Chateaubriand can be a bit of a miserable nutcase himself. . . I need a new direction, but I can't bear to let go. I started reading those three majestic tomes in rotation about twenty years ago.

Trapped by my own traditions, I've probably reached the age I've heard about, where people no longer find the cruel edge of reality intensely satisfying, instead they just do not want to hear the bad news.

To London last week, last minute draftee (Iain Banks had to drop out) to a panel on Science Fiction, at the World Conference of Science Journalists, Central Hall. Nice to see Geoff and Paul, briefly, nice to visit the grand old Methodist Party Central, home of a famous conference of Futuristic Utopians in the Bold As Love story; and an amazingly well-attended panel. NB, it was not science fiction about global warming, drowning cities or anything like that. It was rocketship fantasies, with a small side-order on human cloning. Human cloning always gets people going & I can't understand why. It's just a form of IVF, the DNA is not the person & if you think it can be banned, should the shrinking knowledge gap be bridged, and should there be a market for the product, you are living in a dreamworld. Anyway, it was fun to be in London in the heat, crossing the vasty halls of Canary Wharf, seeing all the Londoners set their teeth as Tube Girl advised them, once more, to carry a bottle of water.

If she had a neck, that girl would be SO strangled.

Maybe I'll be less grumpy tomorrow. Did I mention the hayfever? First year I've ever suffered full blown hayfever, it goes on forever and I don't like it.

Strange Accolade

Friday 26th June, very warm and hazy. It's Ginger's birthday, she's eight.

Up to London yesterday evening, too hot, crowded train, me having failed to complete my draft of the Long Price essay, for my brother's birthday dinner at The Star, Belgrave Mews. We ate, we drank, we talked about many things up and down the long table. . . On the train home again, suddenly somebody called out, Michael Jackson's dead!

Seemed like it was true, because the same call went up from other seats in the carriage, the news conveyed to a moving train by our futuristic world's telecoms, and then passed around in the simplest way, mouth to mouth. . . As we walked along the Upper Lewes Road someone came out of a house and called to us, with the same absence of emotion, yet the same conviction that something important had happened, hey, man, Michael Jackson's dead!

Strange accolade.

He was a very good dancer, a phenomenal entertainer, a rock and roll casualty who died painfully, shamefully, publicly; over decades. Poor kid.

Midsummer's Eve

Wednesday 24th June, another clear warm day, strong breeze.

Midsummer's Eve, eight in the evening, I stand on our ledge (sort of balcony with rickety-railed steps down to the garden, outside the kitchen door), watching the swifts, scimitar wings, flashing when they catch the sun, one, two, four... Maybe a dozen, that's twelve oh children of the C21. Reflected sun, evening gold, making all the roofs and walls across the blue gulf between me and Racehill glow. The trouble with moments like this is that one can't shift them out of context. They come with all the grief and losses and impending doom of the present day drawn up after them. Making it difficult, briefly, to wish the world otherwise.

Just finished Soldiers of Salamis, and found it very good. Falange, it means Phalanx, a greek squad, a noble little band of heroes is the image, only that's not what happened, Franco's dismal exhausted Spain happened. In theory it wouldn't be worth saying over again, but if you loved Pan's Labyrinth you'll love this. Salamis? Ah yes, one of those "turning points of European history", and I don't suppose Javier Cercas knows the Browning poem, but Name not the clown with these is exactly what he means, I think, by his "Miralles"

I praise masculine deconstructed heroics, male-ordered romance about lost causes and the courage it takes to go on living, and live well, because these aren't the Seventies.

Working on the Long Price review now, and just got the ARC of Grazing The Long Acre from PS. Good heavens. Wonders will never cease. The cover work by Mark Garlick was my choice, it's an sf version of Magritte's La Reponse Imprevue, which means "The unexpected answer". For the record, my favourites are "Destroyer of Worlds" and "In The Forest Of The Queen". There had to be a frog story!

PS, I decided not to do a Spirit encyclopedia, enough of that with Bold As Love, but I always search my characters' names, just in case, and this is what I turned up, long ago, for "Yelaixaing", night comes fragrance, which means tuberose (I suppose the Mexican flower? But maybe there's a Chinese tuberose). Isn't that nice.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill

Weather same as it was 10 minutes ago, except the quilt has lost definition and I can't see any swifts.

Did I mention we have a second invasion, this time those handsome Swedish tiger moths, first outlier spotted in our kitchen a couple of years ago at this time. This year, I see them darting and fluttering at treetop level, all across the Crescent gardens.

The Marine and Coastal Access Bill has a consultation document up online, it's a little difficult to find but this should get you to the pdf:
Please respond, before July 13th, if you're interested in conservation, fish (including eating them), diving, seabirds, or anything of that kind. As you must have heard, recently, it's scary what's happening to global fish stocks, and shocking that there is a solution (No Take Zones) that's proven, swiftly successful and speedily profitable, but NTZs aren't being included in the Bill as it stands, for fear of reprisals from the fishing industry. The same "fishing industry" that soon won't exist unless dramatic action is taken, but no, they'd rather chew their own paws off and bleed to death than let anyone help them out of the trap.

What is a No Take Zone? What it sounds like. It's an area, usually quite small, inshore or in the open sea, from which nobody's allowed to take any fish, shellfish, crustaceans. No commercial fishing, with any kind of gear; no angling. Leisure diving, boating, swimming regulated but allowed. Ideally, they're areas identified as spawning or nursery grounds for important commercial or conservation-worthy species. In the open ocean (cf the Plaice Box) they work but not terrifically well, because the fishing crews just put more pressure on the adjoining areas. Inshore, which is the area the Bill covers, they've been found to work swiftly and spectacularly, restoring populations of young fish, lobsters, scallops, cockles, whatever, and when they grow up & wander out of the zone they put the local fishing industry back in business in a sustainable way. It's simply game-keeping for the wild harvest of the ocean, and about bloody time. (excuse my Australian, the pioneers of this kind of conservation are Australian and NZ). See this site

The Art Of Science

Monday 22nd June, warm. A bright, downy layered overcast, the kind of sky that promises rain or sun, but fails to deliver either.

Last Wednesday, on a chill June evening, we took the train to Shoreham for an event in the Adur Festival Art of Science programme, a multi-media science lecture presented by Philip Harris from Sussex Uni, devised by Harris, Richard Durrant, and Malcolm Buchanan-Dick. Truly awesome and far-reaching it says here, and no word of a lie. A short history of the alphabet soup (or "particle zoo") that presently pertains, quarks and all, with abstract music and visuals generated from the EDM experiment at Grenoble. Thoroughly good and gripping exposition of what "we" currently think is going on,and why. Supposing it isn't turtles all the way down, that is. We always have to take this kind of thing on faith of course, how could it be otherwise, but it was excellent fun, how refreshing to see a full house for the most abstruse of natural philosophy, and a welcome alternative to Richard Dawkins feeble "The God Delusion"

read recently, in response to a challenge on this blog from Marc Jacobs, "what have you got against Dawkins??"

. . . Dawkin's whole argument seeming to be "Don't worship that silly opinionated old bloke on a cloud over there, worship THIS silly, opinionated middle-aged bloke over here! To be fair, someone pointed out it's really a fractious response to the drubbing he got from Bible Belt creationists, but even so! He ought to be ashamed.

I wanted to ask exactly how the "measurements of asymmetries within a neutron" related to the whale-song style sound and Acid Test light show, but there were too many other people with much better prepared questions, & I wouldn't have understood much of the answer, so I just paid attention instead.

Weather Lore, Imagination Space

Thursday 11th June, clouds gathering after a warm sunny morning.

Thunderstorm at breakfast and then heavy rain on and off all day yesterday, & today looks like slipping back into more of the same. If that dry summer doesn't materialise, I'm finally going to give up on that stupid Oak and Ash thing, and this time I mean it.

Going through the copy-edited files of a book of essays & such, probably coming out next year from Aqueduct Press:how difficult it is to revisit recent non-fiction and resist the temptation to change everything. (I can usually distance myself from my own fiction, of whatever vintage. It's all make believe, maybe it made sense at the time, maybe someone else wrote it!). Time is no healer, ideas and emotions slip into the past and discontinuity blurs. I can remember feeling entitled to be angry about the invasion of Iraq, about the brutal lurch to the right engineered by the terrible marriage between the "good guys" and "those occult lunatics in the desert", but I seem to have lost that right, and even that feeling. Was there ever a world without the War on Terrorism? Was there ever an England where Parliament didn't need to be housed in concrete defences, where secret evidence was anathema, the police didn't shoot to kill; and where the rule of law prevailed? Were there vampire stories before Twilight?

My time at my desk has been so fragmented, not to say shattered, all this year, I'm amazed to find I've finished Grasshopper and turned it over to my agent. Usually, since I follow Peter's calendar, I'm racing madly to get something finished before the holidays. This'll be better. I'll make a new start in a leisurely fashion, ready to get serious in the autumn.

No I won't. If the sun refuses to shine I'll slack around, obsessively playing vintage Zelda and watching daytime movies.

June Drop

Tuesday 9th June, cold, grey and drizzly

It's that time of year. The weather has closed in, the skies are low and wet, the slugs, held at bay for a while by the cold winter, are rampant and the greenhouse, so full of hopeful beginnings in April, is now the home of gangling green tomatoes and refugees from the battlefield. One of my Japanese lantern plants seems to have decided to kill the other, so I've separated them, and the invalid isn't dead yet. On the little pear tree eight pears are still swelling, the grass under the laden plum tree is littered with small green lawn-mower killing pellets.

"People power sees off Supermarket Giant," says the Brighton Evening Argus, but if it's true Tescos have given up their plan to build a superstore in my neighbourhood I don't feel very victorious. I've read the Council's "Masterplan" for the regeneration of the London Road, and there's a hole the size of a departing elephant. Why on earth produce such a big fancy document, which must have cost a fortune full of warnings about pollution and reminders about all the sensible, vital restrictions on new developments, if the whole scheme was conditional on the covert pay off from mega-developers who were never going to get planning permission. Oh well. I'm sure it was fun putting all the pictures and flowcharts and all together.

I think there's still one frog alive in the pond, but its skin is red, and one eye white-blind. I can't think of anything to do, except one old trick; which I plan to try.

On a brighter note, here's a test of the new Midnight Lamp (soon to be officially posted on the Bold As Love pages)

A Lizard and a Cuckoo's Song

Monday June 1st, another beautiful warm day.

Sunday, warm and breezy, we didn't have time for a long day walking so we took the train to Berwick and walked around the little reservoir to Arlington, the Yew Tree, where they serve a nice pint of Sussex; and where the Norman Church of St Pancras, with its Saxon long and short work (featured in Rainbow Bridge) can be admired. Around and back through the lanes & beside the Cuckmere, pleasantly surprised by a lizard, sleek olive brown little creature, caught crossing road. There used to be a colony of Common (not in Sussex nowadays, of course) Lizards in King Death's Garden, on a neglected sunny path, but that was years ago. A viewing path has been created, more graves have been opened, the old upper cemetery has lost its summer aura of benign, dreamy neglect. Still, a lizard in the sunshine! And a cuckoo's song, from Abbot's Wood, that followed us, insistently, seeming to get clearer in the distance, as we headed down the river.

THIS IS A KNIFE late at night, Sky Artsworld, came across Bloc Party ("Banquet" and English National Ballet collaboration Ballet Rocks. Fantastic, compelling, power and glory: knocks MTV R&B excuses of song and dance routines I'm subjected to at the gym out of the ring. Reminded me of that Crocodile Dundee scene when some NY kid attempts to mug the leathery Paul Hogan. 'This is a knife, man!'. . .'Nah, mate THIS is a knife'

Eastern Eye London Rd; Painted Ladies, Roundhill Crescent

Wednesday 27th May. Grey, cold and wet. . .

. . .but yesterday, between showers, the sun came out. An influx of Painted Lady butterlfies, something I haven't seen for years, ten or a dozen of them, playing and feeding around Val's red valerians.

Update on the Another London Rd affair: Sunday, with Tarquin's help, Peter and I leafleted, to let the people know about the Council's consultation document, coming to this address soon. Up the hill and down the hill, then we all went to lunch at the Eastern Eye, to reward ourselves suitably*. It's important that plenty of people tell them that we want regeneration, but on a human scale: and for the work to be done incrementally, with minimum disruption. The Council's position is predictable: Tescos will provide "environmentally friendly" sweeteners downstream, if they get planning permission for their wacking big Stalinist project and huge carpark, and that should shut everybody up. But the pollution, the creation of a barren hinterland for the Superstore, the destruction of small businesses, and incidentally the defiance of the Council's own development guidelines will remain the same.

So please, if you are reading this and are local, make the effort.

*Anyway, Eastern Eye, London Road Brighton 07830204778/01273685151: an undiscovered gem, excellent South Indian food, original dishes, friendly service best Masala Dosa I've tasted in a long time. The only Indian restaurant in the area, if not in our city, that I'd reccommend.


Tuesday 26th May. Rain.

[The New Shostakovich, Ian MacDonald, revised and with notes by Raymond Clarke, Random House 2006]

(Draft: Less later)

Shostakovich was born in Petrograd in 1906. His family were middleclass, educated, mildly revolutionary in sympathy; connections were more actively anti-Tsarist political. In 1917 he was in the crowds who saw Lenin arrive at the Finland station and was caught up in the euphoria (long afterward he denied this, but I bet it's true. Ten years old, with his family background. Why wouldn't he have been excited?). He was a child prodigy, his first symphony premiered in Leningrad in 1926 to instant acclaim, and recognition that here was an extraordinary, world-class talent. In the early thirties he wrote an opera Lady Macbeth of Mtensk, about an "ordinary Russian family, they beat and poison one another. . .", with a free and defiant rural Soviet heroine (whose principles Shostakovich seems genuinely to have embraced) whose genius is that she breaks free from the petty oppression of bullies, and slaughters her male chauvinist oppressors. In 1936, in the opening phase of the Stalinist purges, he received a severe reprimand from the Party for this anarchic work, at a time when reprimand was a whisker away from a sentence of death; or "disappearence" avant le lettre. His response was his Fifth Symphony, subtitled "A Soviet Artist's Response To Just Criticism", which passed the censor, and was acclaimed world wide despite strange inconsistences in texture and tone; but was in fact a coded message, that the Russian people understood if no one else did. In the slow movement, the premiere audience heard the ticking away of midnight vigils, waiting for the Secret Police to knock on the door, they heard the suppression of their fear and grief, the deadening pervasive torment of constant suspicion, and when the bombastic, blaring final movement took over they all knew very well that this was not triumphalism but daring and bitter satire. They broke down in tears. They gave the composer a rapturous ovation. (Personality cult style success, to the extent of a highly dangerous standing ovation, was to greet many of Shostakovich's works).

But he walked the line, and despite a couple of further minatory brushes with the authorities he remained for his entire career the Composer Laureate of the Soviet Union, Stalin's Poster Boy, saying what he had to say, when interviewed by Western journalists on cultural trips abroad. When the pressure became too great he'd write music he knew he could never publish and put it away, and then turn in another bland innocuous socialist realism movie score. In 1975 he died of lung cancer, in an odor of Soviet sanctity. In 1979, someone called Solomon Volkov produced a work called "Testimony", published in New York, which he claimed was Shostakovich's secret autobiography, that turned everything on its head and revealed a suppressed, passionate dissident. "Testimony" has had a chequered history. Naturally Western music critics, of whatever political persuasion, didn't like being told they'd been fooled into accepting satire as pure music: naturally Communist and even some Left Wing intellectuals were furious at the slur on Russian culture. But though the authenticity of the "autobiography" has been convincingly rubbished, the "New Shostakovich" is now almost universally accepted as the real composer. Maxim Shostakovich (once he was free to speak without endangering lives of family members) has said of Testimony, "this is a book about my father, not by my father, but it gives a true picture of his life". . .

Many musicologists, even so, were unable to believe Shostakovich had devoted his towering abilities to such a weird, secret life. What? One of the greatest composers of the C20 (probably, possibly, the greatest, and he distorted every single line of his music with the secret message "STALIN STINKS". It's not possible! We know Beethoven had a crush on Napoleon and then repented of it, in public, but it was only part of the music. Shostakovich's first priority has to have been self-expression. Deep down, all great artists are selfless egotists (to coin a phrase), they don't traduce themselves. . . Glasnost came along, and the staggering extent of Stalin's Terror was finally, by degrees, revealed. "Testimony" was no longer implausible. And yet, by the way, you'll still find furious Communists, denouncing the New Shostakovich idea all over the net, check it out.

The New Shostakovich was a shock to the system. My music student son has been taught the New Shostakovich line (I checked); me, I was just curious. Long ago, I'd dismissed the man as one of the C20 Big Composers whose work was just never going to interest me. A wannabe Art of Noise merchant, prevented by politics from embracing Modernism, but making up for it with blaring, crude and clumsy dissonance in a Classic mode. Then Gabriel started playing the Preludes and Fugues (Op 87, 1950-51), beautiful, complex, serene and challenging. I loved them, and that made me wonder. . . I never read a biography that left me so interested, and yet so unsatisfied as this one. I immediately decided I'd better read Robert Conquest's "The Great Terror". R. Conquest is a pickle: a complete nutcase on the subject of how he would rule the world (a ginormous Superstate called the Anglosphere, in case you don't know: which would run the entire world, with the President of the USA as CEO, and the Queen of England as, well, Our Queen, God bless her). Also a superb investigative historian, who told the truth about Stalin forty years ago, and has since Glasnost revised and filled out the picture. "The Great Terror" is not for the fainthearted, it's a relentless, endless mass of grim facts and forgettable names, but it did give me insights on the Shostakovich enigma.

My parents (my father died recently, aged 98) were there at the time. They were Manchester Socialists in thirties, forties, fifties, they had no illusions about the Show Trials, and didn't pass any illusions on. Anyway, by the time I left school. I'd read 1984, I'd read Animal Farm. Darkness At Noon was required reading, alongside the Communist Manifesto, at my alma mater. Yet they walked, and taught me by example I suppose, the art of walking a complicated line, the art of being a Socialist, and voting the way you ought, while knowing that your leaders were to some extent corrupt (it's the nature of the beast); that the Great Socialist State over the water was a hellhole; and that many daft idealist local plans (such as the National Health Service without means testing), were bound to end in disaster. But there's a lot in Conquest that I didn't know, particularly the chunks of transcript from the Great Trials, the weirdly moving public confessions of Great Men who had finally been caught in the maw of their own hellish system. Some of them, between the stirrup and the ground, actually appear to have come to their senses under torture. They confessed, with unsettling conviction, to the "invented" crime of decades of secret sabotage; they confessed to wrecking their country.

Shostakovich didn't choose the role he played. If he'd known what was coming he'd surely have fled, but he was genuinely a socialist artist, and then it was 1930 and it was too late. So he walked a line, staying alive, never revealing his true feelings about the regime; trying not to denounce anyone, much. Same as most people of his class. But he was Shostakovich, so he allowed himself to remain a Great Soviet Artist, Stalin's pet composer, so that he could go on writing music, and being heard, at the global level he knew that he deserved; that the world deserved. No wonder he had a real breakdown when he was finally coerced into becoming a Party Member (1960); a fate than many another secret dissident had accepted with resignation. He'd survived for so long, hanging onto his selfless egotism, with honour as he believed, but in the end they beat him. They made him "sell out".

So what about the music? It hasn't changed, it's still weirdly inconsistent, sombre one minute, gruesomely jovial the next. It's still mostly programme music, not pure music, and "full of quotations" (and I think that's not coerced in either case). But surely music that can't be heard right without knowledge of a particular, isolated historical context is doomed to die? Hm. All art has historical context, and somehow the Illiad gets by. And Stalin's Russia was hardly an isolated phenomenon. Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Rwanda, Bosnia. . . And the Western Powers, who let Stalin's Russia happen because, cut the humanitarian crap, Hitler was more of a threat to "our" territories? Do you remember that secret WWII Allied pact to sacrifice Poland, to get themselves a following wind, that I fictionalised with the imaginary codeword Iphegenia in Band of Gypsys? I didn't make it up.

In the C20, Big Music moved to Russia. . . I didn't used to believe that. Movie scores, ballets, Rach2 okay, but what about the Modernists? What about Benjamin Britten? I think I'm going to have to change my mind. Listen to the Fifth. Listen to the music of the C20, the difficult, grievous, harsh, immortal music of the century when "we" reached our peak.

ATP, Sad to say. . .

Monday 25th May, downpour in the morning, fine and warm this afternoon.

ATP, sad to say, turned out a bit of a bust for us. We'd signed up aeons ago, and watched the bands we'd never heard of added to the roster without disquiet. The Breeders, post-punk, thrashy, female-ordered, what could go wrong? Unfortunately, let me see, we didn't like the music, the weather was cold and atrocious, the food on site was not cheap, not cheerful but uniformly DISGUSTING: which depressed me, to think of the poor holidaymakers, and the Butlins camp itself not as quirky and cute as you might think. Late at night, the rabbits grazed in the security lighting, and we prowled the ranks of chalets, wondering whether to go and see if anyone else had yet braved the stone-empty dance venue. . . Throwing Muses were very good on Friday. Saturday (aside from a dullish 0:0 title-clincher on Sky tv) highlichts were Teenage Fan Club, nothing special, & a disappointing set from the curators, who have grown up and cosy and do a capella alt-folk songs not very well.

Sunday, cheered by truly dreadful weather, we walked to the harbour, ate whitebait & crab, drank Doom Bar, visited the seamen's chapel and discovered, oh,the mines are in Wales across the channel, coalships used to dock here. Lying on the beach, in a gap between showers, engaged in sky-gazing yoga, we debated just going for a nice walk, but happily decided to stick it out. Melt Banana, Soft Pack, The Foals (we already knew about them) all good, and Gang of Four were great, did a terrific set. Worth the price of admission? Not really, they were playing Brighton on Friday 15th.

Maybe it's a refuge for ageing or wimpy Glasto fans, but if Reading was more to your choice when you were young enough, then ATP fest-under-cover may not be for you. Ah, well. It's nice to get out.

And back to the Commons snouts-in-trough shock horror. For heaven's sake. The idea that this Parliament is even moderately high on the historic scale of corruption at Westminster is absurd. Just shows you what gets "us" going, and what "we're" happy to ignore. Destroy their civil liberties, they couldn't care less. Show the great British public an unarmed citizen apparently clubbed to death by the police in broad daylight on the streets of London, and they aren't scared at all. A wooden duckhouse has them in a feeding-frenzy, baying for blood, defecting to the BNP, demanding a General Election. Money, money, money. Nothing else matters.

Just you wait. You'll see.

Reading: still Robert Conquest, but I've finished The Illiad in French and started the Odyssey in French. So now I know (I never could get into the English versions there are around). Fantastic. I'm not surprised that untold generations have been knocked out by the Illiad; and charmed to have learned that the traditions of adventure fantasy were in place back in Homer's day. And more than likely in the Bronze Age setting of this historical romance as well. We haven't changed. You'd have to go back a long, long way to find a viewpoint that isn't "ours". Certainly way further back than recorded text. Always, already bemoaning the hideous inequity and brutal evils of war with one hand, celebrating the glories and dwelling with detailed relish on gory injuries with the other. Achilles, weeping, with his murderer's hands, arranges his friend and lover's body on the bier. . .*

The Odyssey is very different. Same author? Why not? But of course, one of the things I've learned is that the Illiad is not intact, bears signs of multiple authors and editiors, and "Homer" is a catch-all, like saying "God" or "Moses" wrote the scriptures. There's a tradition the Odyssey was authored by a woman, on account of the domestic details, but I don't know about that. Possibly, why not, the "Homer" author thought to himself, the war book was cool, but now I'd like to get home and street with these people, take them down the shipyards, see what they used for door-latches and so on.

*Apparently, in Plato's day the Athenians tied themselves in knots trying to figure out which of this pair was the “erastes” and which the “eromenos”, as they couldn't imagine a homosexual relationship that wasn't pederastic. Later generations tied themselves in same trying to see only chaste manly affection.

Did you know that hetarios originally meant companion, not whore? But I got that from Wikipedia, so don't quote me.

Thick Cloud, thick head

Wednesday 13th May thick cloud, wind has dropped.

Thick cloud lying low over the valley, from Roundhill to Racehill, and no doubt the whole of Brighton. The swifts came out to hawk about ten thirty, like pondskaters on a grey puddle, and now they're dots, far away in the gulf outside my window. King Death's Garden, (I never knew my storybook got a mention in the Festival tourguide talk: non omnis moriar, eh) now in full leaf, a richer green against the dull sky. I like this weather, damp May much better than bitter May, but I'll like it less in Minehead at the ATP Breeders curated weekend, which promises to be a rain fest all the way to Sunday, and I already have an annoying blurry tiring cold in my head. That's ATP as in All Tomorrow's Parties by the way, not the energy molecule.

Many thanks to Jacqueline Sell and Dorothy Stringer School library. The price of your copies of King Death's Garden has been donated to the AI campaign for freedom of the press in Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, I have no more spare copies of this title.

The downloads: you're welcome, Ben. Midnight Lamp coming real soon.

Reading: Robert Conquest's The Terror; still following the Shostakovich trail.
And The Price Of Spring, Daniel Abraham, which finally landed last week.

Work related: have finally signed off the PS Publishing collection "Grazing The Long Acre". Who knows, it may even go on sale this year. Or next. Have also finished Ann Halam Gothic, Grasshopper, at last!

What's that alternate image in the entry header? It's a detail from a photo of a poppy field, my friends.

Bold As Love

Monday 11th May, bright sun, blustery wind, no rain!

Peter's added the downloads of the first two Bold As Love books to the Rock And Roll Reich pages, and here's a link: Bold As Love. & I've finally got round to making permanent links to that site and my content site: just scroll down the righthand sidebar. If you have the sound turned on, that's Gabriel playing I Vow To Thee My Country , on Spanish guitar, long ago.